Blair backs bid to take Ryder Cup to North-East

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, albeit as a humble MP for Sedgefield, has backed Slaley Hall's bid to stage the Ryder Cup. The Northumberland course is at the centre of the English campaign to host the match in 2009, although, with Scotland and Wales also bidding, the head of the Her Majesty's Government should be on to a winner whatever.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, albeit as a humble MP for Sedgefield, has backed Slaley Hall's bid to stage the Ryder Cup. The Northumberland course is at the centre of the English campaign to host the match in 2009, although, with Scotland and Wales also bidding, the head of the Her Majesty's Government should be on to a winner whatever.

Bids will be delivered to the headquarters of the Professional Golfers' Association at The Belfry this morning, with the winning country expected to be announced in January. Sweden are the other contenders.

The Prime Minister wrote: "As a local North-East MP, I am well aware of the importance of sport to the people of the area. Thousands participate in a wide variety of sports on a regular basis, and the organisation committee can be assured of tremendous local support should the competition come to the region. I eagerly look forward to joining the people at this great sporting occasion."

With England having staged all but two Ryder Cups on this side of the Atlantic, there is a feeling the matches should be spread around, but officials for the North-East's campaign have been encouraged that there has not been any attempt to dissuade them from bidding.

"It is true England has often been the preferred location in the past but we believe this is an event we wanted to bid for and will have enormous benefits for our region," said John Bridge, the chairman of One NorthEast, the Regional Development Agency for the area.

"We are in it to win and we can do it. It is a very strong bid." Slaley Hall is owned by DeVere, which will be hosting its fourth Ryder Cup at The Belfry next year, while One NorthEast has underwritten the campaign, which includes setting up a North-East Golfing Academy, to the tune of £24m with more to come from private enterprise. "Sport is the stuff of legend in our region," Bridge added. "We are competing with the very best in football and athletics, but not golf. Here we have the chance to change all that, to let every schoolchild sample the game."

Trevor Brooking, the chairman of Sport England, which is also behind the bid, added: "The long-term potential for development is massive. Golf has been criticised for being élitist and we want to make sure there are much closer links with schools and less privileged communities."

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